Appropriations Committee recommends cuts to NU for 2018-19 fiscal year

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In January, Gov. Pete Ricketts recommended cutting NU’s budget by two percent this year and four percent for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The committee is instead recommending to keep the two percent cut but reduce the four percent cut to one percent.
Cassie Wade

The Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee has gone against Gov. Pete Ricketts’ recommendation to cut funding to NU by four percent for the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to a Lincoln Journal-Star article published on Feb. 23.

The Appropriations Committee is instead recommending a one percent cut to NU for the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star article, titled “Legislative Committee recommends scaling back cuts to NU, colleges”.

University of Nebraska at Omaha Chancellor Jeffrey Gold said in a phone interview that the decision to recommend scaling back the cuts to NU by three percent for the 2018-19 fiscal year is likely due to a better forecast from the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board.

The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board provides a forecast of general fund receipts, which the Legislature uses to create the state’s budget, according to a Unicameral Update article titled “Economic forecasting board raises revenue projections.”

“Over the biennium, they upped the forecast by about $55 million,” Gold said, “which shows more revenue to the state, which I think has given the Appropriations Committee enough air under their wings to make a somewhat more favorable recommendation to protect the university’s budget.”

Ricketts’ proposed four percent reduction would’ve caused NU to lose $23-24 million in cuts for the 2018-19 fiscal year, Gold said. At the committee’s recommended one percent cut, NU would instead lose approximately $6 million.

The Appropriations Committee has still recommended to cut NU’s funding by two percent for this year, Gold said. The two percent cuts will amount to a loss of more than $11 million.

Recently, NU’s universities released examples of where the cuts would take place if the governor’s original budget recommendations of two and four percent cuts became reality.

Gold said with the committee’s recommendation, the areas where each Nebraska university will be impacted will depend on the final outcome of the cuts.

“If it ends up at a two percent [cut] this year and one percent next year, I’m told that the president will send the long lists of potential cuts back to the campuses,” Gold said. “The campuses will then review those lists and come back with a final priority of what would actually be cut as a result of the final legislature’s decision.”

The committee’s recommendation to reduce cuts to NU for the 2018-19 fiscal year is not final. Gold said the Appropriations Committee’s recommendation will come out in a bill and will be debated in the legislature before being finalized no later than mid-April. Once the bill is finalized, Ricketts will either have to sign it or line item veto it.

“This is a nine-inning ball game, so to speak,” Gold said. “We’re probably at the sixth or seventh inning. A lot of debate is likely going to occur at the floor of the legislature. Then, we will be in the governor’s hands as to what Gov. Ricketts chooses to do with this.”

Though NU’s budget is not out of the danger zone yet, Gold said the committee’s recommendation to reduce cuts to NU for the 2018-19 fiscal year is “a very positive statement of the value of the University of Nebraska system.”

“To me, this is a realization of just how important the university is to the state,” Gold said.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha Student Body President Carlo Eby echoed Gold’s statement on the value of NU.

“We are a money making machine at the university, so every dollar that gets invested here gets a $6 return to the state economy,” Eby said. “At a time where we want our state economy to grow, it makes sense to invest in the only agency that can do that for you.”

Eby said besides the forecasting advisory board, he also credits NU advocates for the Appropriations Committee’s recommendation to decrease budget cuts to NU for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

“The students writing letters, Hank Bounds and everyone else who got to testify at the appropriation’s hearing, anybody who called or wrote their senators, all that added up to ultimately influence their decision,” Eby said.